A new study revealed the patterns of brain activity that produce human speech. The findings may one day lead to new approaches for treating speech disorders.
Most of us barely give a conscious thought to the process of speaking, but it’s one of the most complex actions we perform. In order to speak, your brain needs to quickly and precisely coordinate your lips, jaw, tongue and larynx (voice box). Speech disorders, such as stuttering, affect roughly 5% of children by the first grade. The underlying causes of most speech disorders, however, aren’t well understood.
A team led by Dr. Edward Chang of the University of California, San Francisco, set out to better understand speech processing in the brain. To do this, they recorded neural activity from the brain surfaces of 3 people who were implanted with electrode arrays as part of their preparation for brain surgery. The electrical recordings were matched with microphone recordings as the subjects read syllables aloud. The researchers identified about 30 active electrode sites per subject. Analysis of the recordings revealed that different sounds were coordinated in dynamic, complex patterns of activity involving different brain regions. Electrical patterns in the brain transitioned within tens of milliseconds between distinct representations for different consonants and vowels.
This work sheds light on a unique human ability: the power of complex speech. The findings may help guide potential treatments for speech disorders and the development of brain-computer interfaces for artificial speech.
Information for this blog post taken from an original post by Harrison Wein, Ph.D.